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Wednesday, 21 September 1983
Page: 1080


Mr UREN (Minister for Territories and Local Government) —For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee of Review of the Role and Functions of the National Capital Development Commission. I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report.

Leave Granted.


Mr UREN —I table for the information of honourable members the Report of the Committee of Review of the National Capital Development Commission. The Committee was appointed on 27 July 1982 by the then Minister for the Capital Territory to conduct a review of the National Capital Development Commission. The appointed members of the Committee were Mr George M. White, Architect of the Capitol, Washington, DC, Professor Max Neutze, Director, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, and Emeritus Professor Sir Rupert Myers, KBE, formerly Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of New South Wales.

I wish to place on public record my appreciation of the Committee's work and my high regard for its report. The Committee was required to report on-

(a) the appropriate balance of responsibility between the public and private sectors;

(b) the responsibilities appropriate to the NCDC;

(c) the appropriate allocation of functions between the NCDC and the then Department of the Capital Territory;

(d) the extent of regulation of land use and design and siting;

(e) any special planning considerations which should apply to Canberra because of its role as the national capital and seat of government, and having regard to the fact that all land is owned by the Commonwealth and developed and administered under the leasehold system.

In the course of its inquiries, the Committee considered over 100 written submissions from organisations and individuals and conducted public hearings between September 1982 and March 1983. Informal discussions were also held with a number of people who have special knowledge and experience in relevant areas. The change of government took place before the Committee finalised its report. The Committee was thus able to take into account the stated policy objective of this Government, as clearly articulated in the Governor-General's Speech of 21 April, that there be a transition to self-government in the Australian Capital Territory. I have already taken preparatory action fo the establishment of a task force to implement self-government in the Australian Capital Territory. I shall make an announcement on that in due course. The Committee's report and the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission's inquiry into Australian Capital Territory finances will also bear on the Government's decisions on self- government in the Australian Capital Territory.

The Committee's recommendations cover matters relating to land use and planning , the physical, social and economic development of Canberra and urban administration in the Australian Capital Territory. The principal recommendation in the report is that the planning and development of Canberra should remain the responsibility of a single organisation; and that, subject to significant changes to the structure, functions and operating style of the National Capital Development Commission, a restructured Commission should continue to pay a broad and major role in planning and developing the national capital.

The Committee recommends against the introduction of a statutory planning system similar to those which apply in the States. Instead, a series of recommendations aimed at achieving more open decision making, participation and accountability in the planning process were made. In this connection a wider role was proposed for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. In the area of land administration the Committee recommends that for the continuing protection of the national interest in the national capital, land ownership and control should remain a Commonwealth responsibility. The Committee further recommends that the estate management function should be integrated with the planning and development functions under the control of a restructured Commission.

Some of the Committee's recommendations are far-reaching with implications outside the Australian Capital Territory, for instance that the restructured Commission should be empowered and directed to consider regional matters and to undertake regional planning studies when so required. Others are more detailed and relate to administrative and procedural matters. Others still raise fundamental policy questions such as the relationship between the Minister and the restructured Commission. These are all matters for careful consideration by the Government. I believe also that the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory should be given every opportunity to exercise their democratic rights, and I am taking steps to encourage wide consideration and public comment on this report. I believe that the House of Assembly, as elected representatives of the people of this Territory, should have a central role and provide a focus for public comment and representations to the Government.

There are, however, three matters central to the Committee's report on which I believe that the Government must now take a position to limit uncertainty and delineate debate. The first of these arises from recommendation 1, that, subject to changes to the structure, functions and operating style of the National Capital Development Commission recomended in the report, a restructured Commission should continue to play a broad and major role in planning and developing the national capital. I wish to make it clear that the continued existence of the National Capital Development Commission is not being questioned , nor was it an issue contained in the White Committee's terms of reference. What the Government is looking for, however, is public comment on the scope and effectiveness of the Commission's powers, their appropriateness in the light of future changes-such as the advent of self-government-and the various ways in which the Commission might be restructured in the light of a changed role. These are the far-reaching issues on which the White Committee has made recommendations and it is important from the Government's viewpoint that they be tested by public debate.

The second arises from recommendation 35, that, for the continuing protection of the national interest in the national capital, land ownership and control should remain as primarily Commonwealth responsibilities with the Australian Capital Territory community participating as a partner through its representation on the restructured Commission. Without commitment to the specific nature of the restructured Commission, the Government accepts the thrust of this recommendation that land ownership and control and land servicing in the Australian Capital Territory will remain as primarily Commonwealth responsibilities. The third arises from recommendation 50, that national capital open space should remain a Commonwealth responsibility in the event of self- government for the Australian Capital Territory. The Government accepts this recommendation in principle. National capital open space does not include local playing fields, parks or local open space areas. It refers mainly to the river corridors, hill areas and the distant natural landscape and water catchment areas. There will, however, need to be a clear definition of the actual areas involved and in arriving at this definition it will be necessary to consult the local community. The Government has not reached a position on the Committee's other recommendations. As I have already indicated, there must be a process of public debate before final conclusions are reached.